WPEC West Palm Beach/MSN: By Jennifer Collins – After additional strengthening overnight, Ian is now a category one hurricane with maximum winds of 75 mph moving to the northwest at 14 mph.

Hurricane Ian will continue to rapidly intensify on Monday as it approaches western Cuba. Ian will emerge into the southeast Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday as a major hurricane.

There is still a bit of uncertainty in the track of Hurricane Ian. Impacts to south Florida will depend on the eventual track of Ian as it approaches Florida’s Gulf Coast and interacts with a cold front in the southeast.  Right now, the National Hurricane Center still has possible landfall anywhere from the Tampa Bay area to the Florida Panhandle. Those in Florida, especially on the west coast, should prepare for a major hurricane.

While the Treasure Coast and Palm Beaches will stay away from the center of the storm, this doesn’t mean we won’t still see impacts locally. Tropical moisture moves in on Monday with afternoon showers and thunderstorms. Primary threats include localized flooding and a few strong wind gusts.

Our forecast past Monday will then focus on impacts from Ian which is forecast to become a major hurricane as it enters the Gulf of Mexico but is expected to slow down and expand in size prior to landfall as it interacts with an upper-level trough in the southeast.

Outer bands of the storm could start moving in by Tuesday. We are currently under a marginal risk for isolated strong to severe storms on Tuesday, which includes a low tornado threat. Rainfall and flooding will also be a concern as repeated rounds of showers move into the area. We are currently under a slight risk of flash flooding area wide with a moderate risk for the Treasure Coast, as this area has already received between 6 to 8 inches of rain over the past few days. Rain over saturated grounds will heighten the flash flooding risk. 

On Wednesday, the entire area is again a risk for strong to severe storms as Ian approaches the west coast. There is a slight risk for strong to severe storms from Okeechobee to the Treasure Coast as scattered storms could produce severe wind gusts and isolated tornadoes. 

These impacts are expected to change depending on Ian’s track. A closer storm will increase impacts for some, mainly across Okeechobee, Indian River, and western St Lucie County, currently, there is a 30-50 percent chance of seeing tropical storm force winds across the area. 

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for the west coast of Florida from north of Englewood to the Anclote River, including Tampa Bay.

A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for the Florida Keys, Dry Tortugas, Florida Bay, and the west coast of Florida to the Anclote River, including Tampa Bay.